Kennebunk, in York County, is a seaboard town and port of entry, 24 miles south of Portland and 12 south-east of Alfred. The Boston and Maine and Portland, Saco and Portsmouth railroads pass through the town. Previous to its incorporation, in 1820, it was embraced in the town of Wells. It is bounded on the east by Kennebunk Port, on the south by the ocean, on the west by Wells, and on the north by the towns of Sanford, Alfred and Lyman. It contains 9,876 acres of land. Four small villages constitute the business centre of the town, bearing respectively the names, Kennebunk Village, Depot and Landing, and Harbor Village. The harbor is small but safe, being defended by strong granite piers. The beaches and sea-repelling cliffs about Cape Arundel form noble combinations of scenery. The climate is thought to be very salubrious. There are two inhabitants over ninety-one years of age, and more than twenty between eighty and ninety.
The Kennebunk River, which forms the eastern boundary line, has several improved powers, and is navigable by means of a lock to Landing Village. Branch River bounds the town on the west, while the Mousarn River divides the territory longitudinally into two nearly equal sections. The principal body of water is Alewives Pond, which is about three miles in circumference. The face of the country is quite level. The soil in the southern part is a clay loam, and in the northern part sandy.
A grant was made in 1643 by Sir Ferdinando Gorges, the original proprietor, to Lieut. John Saunders, and his son, Goodman Sanders, is supposed to have built the first house in town. Goodman Burke, also, is supposed to have had a house upon the seashore previous to 1653, the date of incorporation; and Steven Bastom built one soon after. Both these were probably built for the accommodation of travellers passing from the settlements at Piscataqua and York to those eastward. The first permanent settlement was by William Larrabee and four or five companions in 1718, on the banks of the Mousam. A few years afterward a house was built on Great Hill, and two or more at the Landing. In 1748, the number of families was 25 ; at which time a meetinghouse was built at the Landing, being the first in town, Rev. Daniel Little, who taught a school in the Vicinity, supplied the pulpit,—his pastorate continuing about fifty years. The population from this time until the Revolution increased rapidly. In 1679, the falls and water privilege on Mousam River were granted to Jonathan Corwin and Eleazer Hawthorne, who brought with them from Scotland several mechanics, and built a saw-mill, grist-mill, blacksmith-shop and dwelling—house, and soon opened a good business in lumber with Boston. In 1688 the mills were burned by the Indians, and the place was deserted.
In 1721, John Webber, Richard Boothbay and Samuel Sawyer built them houses; but in Lovewell’s war, commencing in 1722, the latter, with Ebenezer Lewis, John Felt and William Wormwood, while rafting timber upon Gooch Creek, were surprised and killed by a of savages led by Tom Wawa, a Pequaket chieftain.
About 1735, a large fortification was erected on Mousam River, called Fort Larrabee, which was torn down in 1762. It enclosed more than an acre of ground. The Indians made several attempts to sur prise this fort, and once they were prevented only by the barking of Larrabee’s dog. Some of the inhabitants took part in the Louisburg expedition; others served in the army in the vicinity of Lake George, in 1756—7, with General Abercrombie and others.
In 1774, iron-works were erected on the island below the lower dam on Kennebunk River, and another furnace at the western end of the clam. The iron ore was brought from Saco, Maryland Ridge, and the western side of the Wells road. A grist-mill was erected the same year on the dam at the lower iron-works. Three salt-factories were also erected about this time, and were worked several years. Stone piers at the mouth of Kennebunk River, to improve the harbor, were built in 1798 and 1823, at a cost of $12,000. Shipbuilding revived after the Revolutionary war, so that in 1798, there were 50 vessels owned upon Kennebunk River. In naval hostilities of this period, the French captured about 25 vessels belonging to citizens of Kennebunk, for which the National Government some years afterward received payment, yet have never paid the owners.
Kennebunk sent into the army during the war of the Rebellion 168 men, of whom 30 died in service. Their monument is a marble slab, bearing their names, set in the wall of the town hall. This building is an excellent one, constructed of brick, and two stories in height. The buildings throughout the town are generally in good condition; and among them are some which were erected very early in the existence of the town. Along the roadside at many points are noble elms and maples, many of them from fifty to a hundred years old. On the Mousam River near Alfred is a atural stone darn, with a fall of 45 feet. This is known as Great Falls, formerly Fluellen Falls. The entire fall in the Mousam from this point to tide-water, is 150 feet, affording several excellent water-powers. At the second fall above tide-water there is a sash and blind—factory, a saw and shingle-mill, and a machine-shop. The third is improved on the western bank by a shoe-factory, and on the eastern by a grist-mill. Above is a twine— factory,—Robert W. Lord, agent. At Varney’s Falls, still further up the stream, is a lumber-mill. The power here is sufficient to drive 11,000 spindles eleven hours a day throughout the year. There are also several mills on the south side of the Kennebunk River, and on Branch River. The Mousam Manufacturing Co., at Kennebunk Village, produces a good article of leather board in large quantities. There are also a plough-factory and several ship-yards. Kennebunk is a port of entry and delivery of the U. S. customs. There were built in the Kennebunk District in the year ending June 30, 1880, ten vessels, whose aggregate tonnage is 2,576 tons.
The “Eastern Star,” published by W. L. Watson, is the only newspaper. It is devoted to local news, and is a valuable paper. Many persons who have been eminent in their departments in life have been natives or residents of Kennebunk. Among them are Joseph Dane, Edward E. Bourne, Hugh McCulloch, Daniel Sewell, Joseph Thomas, Joseph Moody, Horace Porter, William Lord, George Lord, and others perhaps equally worthy of mention.
There are in town two Baptist churches, a Methodist, a Unitarian, an Advent and a Christian Baptist church. The number of pubhic schoolhouses in kennebunk is fourteen; and the value of school pro perty is estiniated at $16,000. The village schools are graded from primary to high. The town has two circulating libraries, aggregating nearly 800 volumes. The valuation of estates in 1870 was $1,577,504. In 1880 it was $1,305,798. The rate of taxation in 1880 was two percent on one-half the valuation. The population in 1870 was 2,603; in 1880, 2,852.
- George J. Varney, A Gazetteer of the State of Maine (Boston: B.B. Russell, 1886), 296-299.